Lessons from Japan Triple disaster


All animals including us humans learn from disasters, misfortunes, and tragedies. It’s an instinct. Thank God. If they don’t, consequence can be deadly. So what are we learning from the recent Japanese triple disaster?

Here are some examples, with an adequate preparation the damage from earthquakes can be limited to a minimum. Even with the magnitude nine quake, hardly any skyscraper crumbled in Japan. It is remarkable that no-one was killed by the earthquake as such. The buildings were made to withstand even such a severe tremor. Roughly 30,000 deaths were caused by the tsunami that came 40 minutes later, not by the earthquake.

Even for the tsunami, the preparedness was almost good enough to prevent such a large number of deaths. Dikes were built to stop, or limit to a minimum, up to an 8 metre high tsunami at the nuclear power station in Fukushima. What they got was 10 metres high. For those who lived on the coast without dikes, there were tall buildings and hills designated as evacuation sites. The whole of security apparatus was ready to tell people to run for those sites, giving them enough time to escape the wall of water. And they did. More than 150,000 people lost homes but survived the tsunami. When I was there, they were in the temporary shelters. An 80 % survival rate. A good preparedness.

As for those who died, I saw an interesting statistics: 48% of those who died of tsunami were over 65 years old. Most of them were swept away and died because they ignored the warning. According to some survivors, they were ready to run when they heard the warning, but they wanted to finish tidying up the homes before they started to run. Houses were in shambles after the earthquake. So, they were busy putting stuff back to the shelves and sweeping the floor, etc. They thought they had enough time to clean the house, and run for safety. But they didn’t; they were not fast enough.

“Rain falls on the just and the unjust,” says the Bible. But if you have an umbrella, you don’t get wet.

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